Staying Strong, Fit, and Independent

Exercise and physical activity are great ways to have fun, be with friends and family, and enjoy the outdoors. But regular exercise and physical activity can also have a direct impact on your everyday life. The benefits they provide can help you stay strong and fit enough to perform your daily activities, get around, and maintain your independence.

Four Types of Exercises to Try

Older adults who are inactive lose ground in four areas that are important for staying healthy and independent:

  • endurance
  • strength
  • balance
  • flexibility

Research suggests that you can maintain or at least partially restore these four areas through exercise and physical activity and that doing so improves fitness.

For example, increasing your endurance will make it easier for you to walk farther, faster, and uphill. Strengthening your muscles will make you stronger. Improving your balance can help your sense of body control, and increasing flexibility helps keep your body limber and flexible.

The goal is to be creative and choose from each of the four types — endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. Mixing it up will help you reap the benefits of each type of exercise, as well as reduce the risk for injury.

How Increased Endurance Helps You

Endurance, or aerobic, activities like brisk walking or swimming increase your breathing and heart rate and improve the health of your heart, lungs and circulatory system. They can make it easier for you to

  • push your grandchildren on the swings
  • vacuum
  • work in the garden
  • rake leaves
  • play a sport

How Increased Muscle Strength Helps You

Strength exercises like lifting weights and using resistance bands can increase muscle strength. Lower-body strength exercises also will improve your balance. Increased muscle strength can maintain your ability to

  • climb stairs
  • carry groceries
  • open jars
  • carry a full laundry basket from the basement to the second floor
  • carry your smaller grandchildren
  • lift bags of mulch in the garden

How Good Balance Helps You

Balance exercises like tai chi can improve your ability to control and maintain your body’s position, whether you are moving or still. Good balance is important to help prevent falls and avoid the disability that may result from falling. Improving your balance can help you

  • prevent falls
  • stand on tiptoe to reach something on the top shelf
  • walk up and down the stairs
  • walk on an uneven sidewalk without falling

How Being Flexible Helps You

Flexibility, or stretching, exercises can help your body stay flexible and limber, which gives you more freedom of movement for your regular physical activity as well as for your everyday activities. Stretching exercises can improve your flexibility but will not improve your endurance or strength.

Improving your flexibility makes it easier for you to

  • look over your shoulder to see what’s behind you as you back the car out of the driveway
  • make the bed
  • bend over to tie your shoes
  • reach for a food item on a kitchen shelf
  • pull a sweater on over your head
  • swing a golf club

It’s Never Too Late to Start

Exercise and physical activity can have a positive effect on your everyday life. Even if you think you’re too old or too out of shape to exercise, becoming active on a regular basis will give you more energy and the ability to do things more easily, faster, and for longer than before. If you’re already active, keep up the good work. If you don’t exercise now, it’s never too late to start.